GARCIA, RICARDO MARTINEZ Name: Ricardo Martinez Garcia Rank/Branch: E5/US Army Unit: 48th Aviation Company, 11th Aviation Group Date of Birth: 15 September 1951 (Kingsville TX) Home City of Record: Driscoll TX Date of Loss: 19 March 1971 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 163940N 1062920E (XD585428) Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 2 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: UH1C Refno: 1730 Other Personnel In Incident: Paul Langenour (rescued); Jon M. Sparks, Frederick L. Cristman (both missing) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 September 1990 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 1998. REMARKS: SYNOPSIS: Lam Son 719 was a large-scale offensive against enemy communications lines which was conducted in that part of Laos adjacent to the two northern provinces of South Vietnam. The South Vietnamese would provide and command ground forces, while U.S. forces would furnish airlift and supporting fire. Phase I, renamed Operation Dewey Canyon II, involved an armored attack by the U.S. from Vandegrift base camp toward Khe Sanh, while the ARVN moved into position for the attack across the Laotian border. Phase II began with an ARVN helicopter assault and armored brigade thrust along Route 9 into Laos. ARVN ground troops were transported by American helicopters, while U.S. Air Force provided cover strikes around the landing zones. During one of these maneuvers, CW2 Frederick L. Cristman was flying a UH1C helicopter (serial #65-9489) with a crew of three - SP4 Paul A. Langenour, door gunner, WO1 Jon M. Sparks, co-pilot, and SP5 Ricardo M. Garcia, crew chief - covering a downed U.S. helicopter during a rescue effort. Cristman's aircraft flew as the trail ship in a flight of two UH1s on the armed escort mission. The landing zone (LZ) was under fire, and the pilot of the downed craft was a buddy of Fred's. He worked the area with his minigun while another helicopter successfully extracted the pilot. Cristman and his crew continued to work the hot LZ while other helicopters came in. His gunship was hit by enemy gunfire. Cristman radioed in to the flight leader that his transmission oil pressure caution light was on, and that he was making an emergency landing on the LZ. This was verified by the lead aircraft, who made several passes over the downed helicopter. Cristman's aircraft crashed into the ARVN perimeter, and was hit on the roof by a mortar round just as the crew jumped out. Cristman, his copilot and the crew chief were thrown to the ground, while the door gunner, SP4 Langenour, was able to exit the aircraft and join a nearby ARVN unit which returned to a U.S. military controlled area. The others remained with the chopper, although this was not immediately apparent from the air. The flight leader's aircraft was also battle-damaged, and he had to leave the area. Another helicopter arrived, and although enemy ground fire was received, made it into the landing zone. Intense enemy fire necessitated a hasty departure, and only two Vietnamese troops were picked up. During the initial rescue attempt by the rescue helicopter, no American crewmen were seen on the downed aircraft, and no radio contact was established. SP Langenour later stated that after landing, the aircraft received numerous rounds of mortar fire and he departed the area. He last saw all the other crew members alive. Due to enemy activity in the area, no ground search of the site was conducted. Proof of the deaths of Cristman, Sparks and Garcia was never found. No remains came home; none was released from prison camp. They were not blown up, nor did they sink to the bottom of the ocean. Someone knows what happened to them. Were it not for thousands of reports relating to Americans still held captive in Southeast Asia today, the families of the UH1C helicopter crew might be able to believe their men died with their aircraft. But until proof exists that they died, or they are brought home alive, they will wonder and wait. How long must they wait before we bring our men home?